# 40875

CHEO Chai-Hiang

Selected images from recent work : a set of 20 hand-printed postcards.

$1,500.00 AUD

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[Brighton, UK?] : [the artist], [1975]. Complete set of twenty hand-printed postcards (plus a duplicate of no. 18), as issued in the original plastic sleeve, with a printed title card editioned and signed by the artist in pencil ‘8/50 C.H. Cheo’; in very fine condition.

A completely unrecorded set of hand-printed postcards from very early in the career of one of the most important figures in Asian contemporary art. These were almost certainly produced by the artist to promote his work around the time of his graduation from the printmaking programme at Brighton Polytechnic in 1975, prior to his enrolment at the Royal College of Art in London.

No other complete example traced.

‘Cheo Chai-Hiang (b. 1946, Singapore–) is an artist who pioneered Singapore’s modern art scene. In 1975, he famously wrote that local art during that period was dominated by the production of “beautiful pictures” that were lacking in conceptual content. He perceived art as a thought process and urged the transformation of local realist art to one that redefined methods of artistic representation. He popularised interactive art in Singapore in the 1980s and 1990s with his work Gentleman in Suit and Tie (1988), in the days when such methods of engaging the audience in an exhibition were considered unconventional.

Upon the completion of his secondary education, Cheo took up a place at the Department of Modern Languages and Literature at Nanyang University in 1964. He chose not to study at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) because he felt that the formal instructive methods of teaching art in Singapore were generally oppressive and not conducive to the nurturing of creativity. Instead, he opted to develop his interest in art through self-study and associated himself with practising artists.

In 1965, he left Nanyang University, unhappy with the constant counter-communism surveillance and police raids that he was subjected to as a student there. He entered the Teachers’ Training College and became a high school teacher. However, he was still very interested in art and began participating in the Modern Art Society’s annual exhibitions in 1968.

In 1971, he left Singapore for England to pursue a formal education in art. He enrolled in the foundation course at Birmingham Polytechnic in preparation for admission into a degree programme. He was later accepted into Brighton Polytechnic’s three-year programme in printmaking. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Fine Art in 1975, he furthered his studies at the Royal College of Art in London, where he obtained a Master of Art in 1978.

Stylistic conventions
To Cheo, modern art should be fluid and the resultant artwork should not be presented as an immutable form, but rather one that is the outcome of interactions between artists, materials, concepts and environments. Rather than be confined by conventional aesthetics and the need to constantly create commercially-valuable objects, he believes in giving thought to ideas, concepts and processes as well as in engaging the everyday world as a site for materials, inspiration and methods of making art.

He is widely known for his eight-point scheme that proposes the criteria for appraising new art, which includes: the rejection of formalism; incorporation of everyday objects and materials in the process of making; eminence given to the method of practice over the finished product; and interactive engagement of audiences in artistic processes and activities.

In 1988, Cheo presented the installation-and-event Gentleman in Suit and Tie. During the event, 60 audience members were each given a stick of charcoal and asked to scribble over sheets of paper attached to a wall. Each sheet had earlier been embossed with a man’s image so that the efforts of the audience would eventually produce 60 images of the man. With this installation piece, Cheo wanted to show that authorship was a shared privilege and that creativity did not belong solely to the artist.

For him, the ability to articulate methods (“what they’re doing”) and intentions (“what they intend to do”) is most important. The use of language is a prominent feature within his artistic system.8 His artistic trademark was evident in his wall installation Teh Tarik (Courting After School 1950’s Style), which was showcased during the 2008 Singapore Biennale, through the use of text from a novel by Singaporean writer, Yeng Pway Ngon.’ (Adlina Maulod, National Library of Singapore)